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Watchdog fines Wall St. firms $4.5 million for lobbyist payments

Dec 27 2012 Reuters

Wall Street's watchdog has fined five large firms over $4.48 million for seeking reimbursement for payments to lobbyists using proceeds from municipal and state bond offerings. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said on Thursday that it fined Citigroup Inc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp's Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Wall Street's self-imposed watchdog said the banks unfairly sought reimbursement of fees they paid to the California Public Securities Association between January 2006 and December 2010 by requesting they be refunded as underwriting expenses from the bond sales. FINRA said the firms "violated" fair dealing and supervisory rules of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board by seeking reimbursement for those payments to Cal PSA, a political association whose activities include lobbying on behalf of companies seeking to influence California state government. "It was unfair for these underwriters to

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